Delhi Pollution: Why Farmers Are Not The Culprits

This Empire Diaries report shows how the Green Revolution in India - a foreign interventionist project – mangled Indian farming and sparked collateral damage, such as the Delhi pollution crisis.

Delhi pollution: Who is actually responsible?


November 11, 2023: In this special episode of Radar, we will look at how foreign interventions, in the name of Green Revolution in India, led to the destabilisation of the country’s farming sector since the 1960s. And because of the interventions, we have farming catastrophes, and also the Delhi pollution crisis.

Stubble burning has been happening for years now. It’s not new, but why is it getting more and more media attention now in the wake of the Delhi pollution drama? Watch the full report, and you will know the answer.

The farmers of Punjab and Haryana need to burn paddy straw, so that they can quickly prepare the farmland for cultivating wheat for your everyday meal. It is part of their routine annual farming cycle. Rice farming is followed by wheat farming, and the cycle is repeated.

Punjab doesn’t want to deliberately create smoke clouds and send them towards Delhi. They don’t want to willingly trigger the Delhi pollution crisis. Instead, they are forced to burn stubble at a time of the year precisely when the wind coincidentally blows from Punjab towards the capital.

2009 law and Delhi pollution

In 2009, to save groundwater due to excess paddy farming, the Punjab government created a new law. It is called the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act. It forces farmers to delay the planting of paddy until the monsoon rain arrives. Because of the law, Punjab’s farmers can start paddy farming only in mid-June. Earlier, they used to start paddy cultivation in April and finish it in September.

Now, because of the delay caused by the 2009 law, they start rice farming in June and finish it in October. During late October, they start clearing the fields. Since there is a rush to make the farmland ready for wheat cultivation, which is the next farming cycle, the farmers burn all the paddy straw quickly. Now unfortunately, October onwards, the northern wind blows from Punjab towards the capital city, triggering the Delhi pollution chaos.

So, is the Punjab government, therefore, responsible for this Delhi pollution mess every November? No, it is not the sole culprit. The story goes deeper than that. In fact, you have to dig into the past to know the actual origin of Delhi’s pre-winter air pollution. To get to the root of the problem, let us look at a timeline of events, starting with the launch of the highly overrated Green Revolution in India.

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